MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at Saturday's UFC Macau main card bout between lightweights Mac Danzig and Takanori Gomi. What's the key to victory for both men? Find out inside.
Record: 21-9-1 overall, 5-5 in the UFC
How he got here: Mac Danzig first began to get noticed during a 12 fight win streak that included a 3-0 stint in the IFL and a seven fight win streak in King of the Cage in which he won the promotion's lightweight title and was able to defend it four separate times.
After losing his title via split decision, he eventually competed on season six of The Ultimate Fighter as a welterweight. He was the clear favorite to win the season and he swept through the competition pretty easily, eventually defeating Tommy Speer on the show's finale to capture the coveted six figure contract.
Danzig has not has an easy go of it in the UFC. He's faced top opposition in nearly every fight. After an impressive stoppage of Mark Bocek, he would lose three straight to Clay Guida, Josh Neer and Jim Miller. He saved his job with a decision victory against Justin Buchholz but a controversial stoppage loss to Matt Wiman sent him reeling again.
Danzig had the best performance of his career at UFC 124, knocking former lightweight title challenger Joe Stevenson out cold inside the fight's first two minutes. He lost again to Wiman but bounced back, saving his job with a unanimous decision victory over Efrain Escudero in his last bout. He'll be looking for the first two-fight winning streak in over four and a half years on Saturday.
How he gets it done: Danzig has solid stand-up skills and showcased some serious power against Joe Stevenson, knocking him out while backing up with a clean left hook.
He should not let that KO get to his head this time around.
Danzig's best path to victory is to avoid Gomi's strength, which is that wild power on the feet. If he can take Gomi down and work his offensive wrestling, perhaps even his submission game, he's going to wear the Japanese fighter out.
Look for Danzig to stay standing for a bit just to see if he can pick Gomi apart like Florian and Diaz were able to do due to superior technical striking skills. If he can do that, he'll probably stick with it. If not, he'll try to close the distance and wear down "The Fireball Kid" in the clinch and on the ground.
Record: 33-8 (1 No Contest) overall, 1-2 in the UFC
Key Losses: Nate Diaz (UFC 135), Clay Guida (UFC 125), Kenny Florian (UFC Fight Night 21)
How he got here: At one point, Takanori Gomi was the most feared lightweight on the planet. He began his career 14-0 and primarily as a freestyle and catch wrestler. Despite his current reputation as an incredibly powerful striker, "The Fireball Kid" only scored two knockouts in his first 14 fights.
He ran into his first roadblock with consecutive losses to Joachim Hansen and B.J. Penn in late 2003 but would bounce back in impressive fashion, famously winning 10 straight in Pride including first round stoppage victories over Jens Pulver, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Hayato Sakurai. He would also win and defend the Pride lightweight championship during this period.
The heavy-handed Japanese striker would famously compete in one of MMA's most legendary fights, brawling with Nick Diaz at Pride 33 and nearly knocking out the elder Diaz brother before gassing out and getting caught in a slick gogoplata. His loss to Diaz was overturned, but the memory of that fight is forever burned into the minds of hardcore fans everywhere.
Gomi has gone 5-4 since the Diaz fight including a 2-3 stint in the UFC in which he was dominated by Kenny Florian, Clay Guida and Nate Diaz but managed a knockout of the year candidate against Tyson Griffin and stopped Eiji Mitsuoka. He'll be looking for his biggest UFC victory on Saturday.
How he gets it done: Gomi has become so obsessed with his knockout power that he's allowed his wrestling and grappling skills to deteriorate. He's no longer a threat to take Mac Danzig down and either pound on him or soften him up for submissions, that would only open up opportunities for his opponent to latch on a submission hold.
Instead, Gomi needs to probe with his jab, use his footwork to cut off escape attempts and look for that knockout blow with his killer fists. Expect to see Gomi really work on finding his range before exploding with a power strike.
Danzig hasn't been stopped by strikes in the UFC, but he's been susceptible to getting hit hard on occasion and it's difficult to find someone who hits harder than Gomi.
If Gomi lands one of his wild go-for-broke haymakers, they are always a threat to be a tideturner in a fight.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be how much both men have left to offer. Danzig still seems to be improving, even if it's tiny increments while Gomi has been showcasing less and less each time he's stepped into the cage. He did not look good in his last fight against Mitsuoka, but was saved when his short notice opponent faded. He's not going to be that lucky on Saturday as Danzig's conditioning is excellent. If Gomi can't land that powerful striking of his early on, he's going to have a bad time.
Bottom Line: If Danzig tries to test out his striking skills in this fight, there's some serious potential for a great "technique vs brawling power" battle early on where the TUF season six winner tries to pick Gomi apart while Gomi tries to knock his head off. It's a great contrast in striking styles and should be very fun to watch for however long it lasts. That being said, Gomi is only dangerous for so long in fights and the second he starts to slow down, this one will not be pretty anymore.
Who will come out on top at UFC Macau? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!
Which lightweight will leave UFC Macau on a two-fight winning streak?
Mac Danzig (50 votes)
Takanori Gomi (31 votes)
81 total votes